The name Guágan Barra derives from St. Finbarr, who according to tradition built his monastery on the island here in the 6th century. Guágan was at one time part of the territories of the O'Leary's who lost possession of the land in the plantation that followed the Cromwellian wars. Subsequently it passed to the Townsend family and ultimately the farming tenants under the Land Acts in the early part of this century. The ruins on the island are not part of St. Finbarr’s original settlement but were erected around 1700 by Rev. Denis O'Mahony who, following the footsteps of St. Finbarr, retired to a life of asceticism here. Because of its isolation, in the days of the Penal Laws people travelled from areas far beyond the bounds of the valley to hear Mass in Guágan Barra. One of the most famous 'Mass Path' was that which led from the Borlin Valley to the west via Gowlane Stream and down into Com Rua by way of the savage cleft of Poll. Guágan Barra is unusual among forest parks in that it provides drive around facilities for the motorist and a motor trail can be followed right along the ring road. There are also a number of signposted paths. Slí Loai follows the course of the infant Lee from the lower car park to the head of the great coum - a distance of about 1.5km. From the lower car park there is a choice of several other walks, including the ever-popular Nature Trail which is quite short - less than 1km. For the more energetic there is a very fine walk called Slí Easa which commands magnificent views of the whole glen and the great mountain wall that encloses it.
Kenmare won the title of Kerry's tidiest town in 1998 and is surely a deserving winner. It is one of the few planned towns in this part of Ireland and it was laid out in an X-plan by the first Marquees of Lansdowne in 1775 who wanted a model landlord's town. Just off Market Street is the Bronze Age Druid's Circle, which consists of 15 standing stones. It is thought that the Circle was used for human sacrifice. During the famine years the nuns at St. Clare's introduced lace making to create work for women and girls. Some of Ireland’s finest restaurants and hotels have found a home in Kenmare.
Bantry Bay is one of the finest natural harbours in the world. It was to be the landing site of a French liberation force, led by Wolfe Tone, consisting of 43 ships in 1796. However, some of the worst storms the area had ever seen prevented the French landing and joining the United Irishmen's Rebellion. Richard White, an Englishman in the area, alerted the authorities of the attempted invasion and was awarded a peerage by George III for his trouble. In 1801 he was made Viscount Bantry, becoming Earl of Bantry in 1816. The 2nd Earl of Bantry collected art and furnishings from all over Europe and refurbished the family home - Bantry House. Bantry House is now the highlight of a visit to Bantry and, while the White Family still lives there, it is open to public. The carriage house and stables have been converted into the French Armada Centre, which explains the events surrounding the rebellion of 1796-1798 (a little ironic considering how the 1st Earl got his title). The gardens are every bit as impressive as the house. Don't miss the ' stairway to heaven' in the Italian garden at the back of the house. The town centre consists of the large Wolfe Tone Square recently remodelled into an attractive outdoor space. An open air market is held in the town every Friday. The town has a number of traditional music venues and a large variety of cafes and restaurants.
Beara Peninsula - The most westerly of Cork's peninsulas, the Beara Peninsula has beautiful rugged coastal scenery which can be seen by driving around the Ring of Beara coast road. Another scenic drive is the Healy Pass, which cuts across the peninsula from Adrigole to Lauragh on the Kerry side. The peninsula has many prehistoric remains dotted about including standing stones, tombs and stone circles. Glengariff Woods forest park is a popular spot for walking and the Sugarloaf Mountain and Hungry Hill have good views over the Peninsula.
Situated in the harbour of Glengarriff, in Bantry Bay, is a small island called Garinish Island. Covering 15 hectares (37 acres), it is known to many as an island garden of rare beauty. It is also known as Illaunacullin or Ilnacullin, meaning island of holly. This name is often used as there is also a Garnish Island nearby in County Kerry. The island is open to the public from March to October and during the winter months; it can be reached by special arrangement. The public are taken to the island in privately-operated boats. Ilnacullin is known worldwide for its huge selection of plants and its Italian Garden full of exotic plants. The vivid colours change with the seasons as the variety of plants means there are always plants in bloom. The climate could almost be described as sub-tropical because of the island's sheltered location and the Gulf Stream. Because of this, many plants from many parts of the world can grow there. For those who are not interested in gardens, Ilnacullin is still an attractive place to visit. There are many picturesque views of the surrounding mountains from the island. The waters surrounding Garinish are rich in wildlife - seals basking on the rocks are a common sight. Opening Times: 1st March to 31st October (weather permitting)
Colourful and lively, Clonakilty is a town of tall spires, elegant squares and buildings rich in historical significance. Its past merges seamlessly with its present in such a way that the town has modernised while losing none of its charm. The library and council offices are housed in the old corn mill while the Post Office now occupies what used to be the Presbyterian Church. The industrial roots of the town are evident and coexist with the signs of one of the dominant modern day industries - tourism. One quickly realises that the people of Clonakilty really care about their town. The great pride they have for their home is evident when you pay a visit. A category winner in the 1999 Tidy Towns Competition, this picturesque town also picked up a prize as the tidiest town in County Cork. Clonakilty is a favourite amongst tourists as it simply offers everything. An exciting nightlife encompasses a traditional music focus as well as contemporary entertainment. De Barras is widely acclaimed as synonymous with the best in traditional and folk music while a whole host of alternatives line most of the main streets of the town. A short walk from the centre of town is a Model Village Exhibition which is a reconstruction of Clonakilty in the 1940s. Clonakilty also houses the West Cork Regional Museum which pays tribute to Clonakilty's industrial past - especially its linen industry. Clonakilty is renowned locally for its dish, Clonakilty Blackpudding (a type of sausage made from oatmeal and pig's blood) - try Twomey's Butchers at 16 Pearse Street, if you want to sample the delicacy. The town received its first charter in 1292 but was re-founded in the 1600s by the first Earl of Cork. He wanted to create an English Protestant town from which Catholics would be excluded - the plan failed and Clonakilty went on to blossom into the important country town it is today.